Golden State (13-17, won last 2) @ Indiana (21-12, won last 4)
* 99.2 points per game (5th in the NBA) vs. 100.6 points allowed per game (26th)
* 45.9% FG (5th) vs. 45.3% FG allowed (22nd)
* 39.57 rpg (28th) vs. 44.37 rebounds allowed (25th)
* 22.23 apg (3rd) vs. 14.9 TO pg (9th)
* 95.52 ppg (12th) vs. 92.55 points allowed (9th)
* 42.9% FG (23rd) vs. 42.9% FG allowed (8th)
* 44.06 rppg (4th) vs. 42.3 rebounds allowed (19th)
* 17.79 appg (28th) vs. 14.76 TO pg (12th)
PG-Steph Curry vs. Darren Collison
SG-Monta Ellis vs. Paul George
SF-Dorrel Wright vs. Danny Granger
PF-David Lee vs. David West
C-Andris Biedrins vs. Roy Hibbert
Golden State-Brandon Rush, Epke Udoh, Nate Robinson
Indiana-Tyler Hansbrough, A.J. Price, George Hill, Dahntay Jones
Injuries of note
Golden State-Stephen Curry (foot, game time decision), Kwame Brown (pectoral, out), Epke Udoh (knee, day-to-day)
Indiana-Jeff Foster (back, day to day)
The last time these two teams met, on January 20, the Warriors out shot and out rebounded the Pacers. But Indiana took great care of the basketball (25 assists to 11 turnovers) and George Hill played good defense down the stretch to keep Monta Ellis from single-handedly eradicating a Pacers’ fourth quarter lead. This time the Pacers get the Warriors potentially without star point guard Stephen Curry, who is listed as day-to-day with a foot injury. Golden State’s coaching staff will evaluate him during the morning shootaround to determine whether or not he will play tonight. Given Indiana’s recent struggles vs. elite ball handlers, Curry’s injury is great news for the Pacers. But Ellis is still the Warriors’ primary offensive weapon, and a threat every time he has the ball in his hands, which is often. Ellis ranks 10th in the entire league in usage rate at 28.1.
Ellis is as dominant an NBA scorer as they come, but he’s also incredibly streaky. In February alone he’s had games of 33, 48, 33, 32 and 26, but his other five February games were of 18, 14, 18, 10 and 11. Indiana will have to drape him with Paul George and George Hill, and try to avoid situations where Darren Collison is stuck on him in isolation plays. There is no shortage of scoring fire power on the Warriors’ roster outside of Curry and Ellis. Five Warriors average double figures, and the team’s bench can score, especially from the wing positions. Nate Robinson, former Pacer Brandon Rush and rookie Klay Thompson all average between 7 and 10 points per game, making up for the drop off the Warriors experience when Ellis, Curry or Dorell Wright are resting. David Lee is also a highly efficient scorer from the low block and mid-range areas, averaging 19 ppg on over 51% shooting. In short, the Pacers, who’ve struggled mightily at containing offense at the point of attack (especially early in games) lately, will have their hands full.
The elephant in the room, however, is that Golden State is an atrocious defensive team. Only four teams allow more points per game than the Warriors, and only eight teams allow a higher field goal percentage. This matchup is clearly “style” (the Warriors) vs. “substance” (the Pacers…we hope). Indiana has been, by and large, one of the more statistically consistent teams in the league over the course of the season. It’s just that those statistics haven’t necessarily been all that good. The Pacers are a solid rebounding team, and are capable of playing above average defense. But if this becomes a shootout, there’s very little chance Indiana can hang with Golden State. That’s why careful offense, great shot selection and an emphasis on shutting down Ellis (easier said than done, right?) will be the only ways Indiana gets to five straight wins.
Prediction: Warriors 101, Pacers 97
Indiana kept the Warriors under 100 the last time they played, but I don’t see it happening again, especially considering the recent first quarter debacle vs. New Orleans, wherein the Pacers allowed the Hornets to shoot over 60% in the first half. Until Indiana proves it has righted the ship defensively against a legit offensive opponent (and this Warriors team is certainly that) I’ll be skeptical about its ability to win against marginal teams, even at home considering that there are so few fans in regular attendance.
Udoh has been nice of late, swatting 13 shots in the last seven games, and adding some solid rebounding numbers to go with them. But his minutes are just too up and down, as he still struggles with foul trouble. Couple that with the knee injury and I’d say use caution. Curry, if he plays, and of course Ellis are both solid starts, as are the other two Warriors regulars Wright and Lee.
Hibbert remains the lone Pacer to implicitly rely upon, but you can start Granger and George with confidence against such a poor defense. George Hill might get extended minutes for defensive purposes, if he’s fully recovered from his ankle injury, and would bear some consideration in deep leagues.
Lucas Klipsch writes, if you can call it that. Follow him on Twitter @LukeNukem317